In an interesting book, Wadaa’ ar-Rasul li ‘Ummatihi, Shaykh Al-Qahtaani
recalls the final words that Rasul Allah said on his deathbed.
After living a life of Jihad, Da’wah, and Ibaadah, Rasul Allah (SAAS)
gathered the people around him on his deathbed and said, “I have left two
things that you shall not go astray after them so long as you stick to them:
the Book of Allah and My Sunnah.”
After Rasul Allah (SAAS) moved onto Ar-Rafeeq al-‘Alaa, the Ummah was tested
with humans that tried to corrupt, discredit, or amputate the Sunnah from
And from the depths of the Ummah’s men and women, Allah ta’ala - from His
mercy to the Ummah of Muhammad - raised up warriors that would stand in the
face of the most vicious of the enemies of the Sunnah.
From those people that Allah ta’ala raised was a young boy named Ahmad.
Ahmad lived in Baghdad over a thousand years ago. On those cold wintery
nights, his mother - the blessed Mu’minah that she was - would wake long
before Fajr to warm the water for her son. Then - again long before Fajr -
she would wake him to make Wudu, then she would wrap him in shawls and off
through the molten dark alleys of Baghdad they would carefully make their way
to the Masjid.
There was no male to escort him (he was an orphan), so Ahmad’s mother would
take him that early so that he could get a good seat in the Hadith halaqah
after Fajr. Then she would wait for him long after the sun rose to safely
escort him back home. Her son grew up to be one of these warrior defenders
of the Sunnah, one of the four Imams of this Deen, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
In his collection, al-Musnad alone, he narrated from over 280 teachers.
He grew up under the shade of the Sunnah and he lived the Sunnah. It was
reported that he said, “I’ve never written a hadith that I did not try to
And he raised his children like this too. When you see other fathers
throwing a baseball with their young Muslims that Allah entrusted them with,
remember this example:
Abdullaah, Imam Ahmad’s son, taught his students that when he was young his
father would play with him, “Take any chapter you wish from the Musannaf of
Wakee’. Ask me any hadith and I’ll tell you the chain of narrators, or tell
me any chain of narrators and I’ll tell you the hadith!”
He was challenged in his Deen like few other humans have been challenged.
His name remains engraved in our admiration till today - across hundreds of
years, across thousands of miles, across thousands of nations - because of
his love for the Sunnah and his stand against those that would seek to
Reading through his life, I came across an event that brought back sad
memories. How do you feel when your father is swore at in public. Imam Ahmad
once prayed Asr and he sat with his son in the Masjid alone with another man
by the name of Muhammad ibn Sa’eed Al-Khuttalee. Al-Khuttalee then remarked,
“Did you (O Ahmad) tell the people to boycott Zayd ibn Khalaf?” Imam Ahmad
replied, “I received a letter from his people asking about his affair, so I
replied explaining his Madhhab and what he has innovated (in the Sunnah) and
commanded that they not sit with him..” Al-Khuttalee exploded in Imam
Ahmad’s face, red with anger, “I’m going to make sure you go back to prison.
I’m going to have them crush your ribs…” The vulgarity grew louder and
louder. Imam Ahmad turned to his son, “Don’t reply to what he says and
don’t speak to him.”
Imam Ahmad took his sandals - al-Khuttaly swearing from behind his back -
and told his son, “Tell the neighbors to not speak to him nor to reply him.”
Imam Ahmad stepped away as Al-Khuttaly continued in the backround cursing
and shouting profanity.
When the Khalifah al-Mu’tasim heard that Imam Ahmad had not agreed with him
and his court Muftis on a specific issue, they brought him and questioned him
in the courtyard of the Khalifah. They would debate with him and like a
gladiator with a spear he would hit back with bigger and stronger arguments.
The Muftis would shout, “O khalifah, he has done Kufr!” Until the
Al-Mu’tasim was convinced and in came the executioners.
They stripped Imam Ahmad and each of the strongest guards would take turns
lashing Imam Ahmad until he fell unconscious. Regardless of his state, they
continued the lashing. The sun went down that day and Imam Ahmad had not
relented in his faith. That day he became an icon for all followers of
Qutaybah said, “If you ever see someone that loves Imam Ahmad, know that
they are a follower of the Sunnah.”
Al Hasan ibn Arafah narrated, “I visited Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal after he was
whipped and tortured. I said to him, “O Abu Abdillaaah, you have reached the
station of the Prophets!” He said, “Keep quiet. Verily, I saw nothing more
than people selling their Deen. And I saw scholars that were with me sell
So I said to myself, ‘Who am I, what am I. What am I going to say to Allah
tomorrow when I stand in front of Him and He asks me, “Did you sell your Deen
like the others did?” So I looked at the whip and the sword and chose them.
And I said, “If I die I shall return to Allah and say: ‘I was told to say
that one of Your Characteristics was something created but I did not.’ After
that, it will be up to Him - either to punish me or forgive me.”
Al-Hasan ibn Arafah then asked, “Did you feel pain when they whipped you?”
He said “Yes, I felt the pain up to 20 lashes then I lost all feeling (They
whipped him over eighty times). After it was over I felt no pain and that day
I prayed Dhuhr standing.”
[In fact he prayed as the blood soiled his clothes.]
Al-Hasan ibn Arafah started weeping when he heard what had happened.
Imam Ahmad questioned him, “Why are you crying? I did not lose my Eeman.
After that why should I care if I lose my life.”
[Qul lan yuseebana illa maa kataballaahu lana, huwa Mowlaana, wa ala Allahi
Before - when Imam Ahmad was being led off to the Khalifah - people had
tried to dissuade him from a most certain execution. His student:
Al-Marrudhee had told him, “O teacher, Allah says, [Do not kill
yourselves].” Imam Ahmad had replied, “O Marrudhee, go outside and tell me
what you see.” Al-Marrudhee went to the wall of the Khalifahs court and saw
an ocean of students with their pens and scrolls in their hands.
Al-Marrudhee asked some of them, “What are you waiting here for?” They
said, “We are waiting to see what Ahmad will say and then transcribe it.”
Al-Marrudhee went back to Imam Ahmad and told him what he had seen.
“O Marrudhee,” he said, “what shall I gain by misguiding all those
Imam Ahmad lived a life of poverty. When others eat lavishly remember there
were days - as Abdurrazzaq recalls - that Imam Ahmad would make a mistake in
Salah. When Abdurrazzaq inquired further he learnt that Imam Ahmad had not
eaten for 3 days.
In this life of poverty, hardship and trials, Abdullah asked his father one
day, “Abi when will we ever relax?” His father, one of the greatest
revivers of the Sunnah, a role model for all Muslims, looked him in the eye
and said, “With the first step we take into Jannah.”
Rahim Allahu Al-Imam Ahmad.